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Democratic and Republican leaders in both chambers of the West Virginia Legislature called for Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry’s resignation Friday.

The statements come as fallout continues from the 32-count accusation of judicial misconduct the Judicial Investigation Commission lodged against Loughry, a former chief justice on West Virginia’s highest court, and after his specially appointed peers on the bench voted to suspend him without pay.

Following his suspension, Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, and House Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison, released a letter they wrote to House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, and Gov. Jim Justice, asking them to call on Loughry to step down.

“This corruption and continued disruption to our judicial process must come to an end,” they wrote. “The Legislature as an institution must act immediately to show the people of our great state that checks and balances do exist in our form of government.”

The JIC’s statement of charges spans accusations that Loughry abused the prestige of his office and lied to the news media, lawmakers and the general public. Those alleged lies center on his personal use of state-owned resources, including furniture, a desk, a computer and a vehicle.

If Loughry does not heed their calls for his resignation, the Democrats requested that the leadership or Justice convene a special legislative session to begin impeachment proceedings.

Hours after the letter went out, Armstead and Carmichael acquiesced. Gov. Jim Justice responded hours later.

“Given the serious accusations detailed in the Judicial Investigation Commission’s complaint — particularly the charge that he did not answer questions truthfully while under oath to this Legislature — I believe the time has come for Justice Loughry to put the best interests of our state first and resign,” he said in a statement released through a House spokesman.

Armstead’s statement does not address impeachment. He could not be reached for comment Friday evening.

Shortly after Armstead, Carmichael released a similar statement, citing not just the JIC’s findings but also those from a legislative audit of Loughry’s conduct.

In a phone interview, Carmichael said that, between the media reports, legislative audits and JIC charges, enough is enough.

“This is incredibly sad, but the public has lost confidence in the judiciary as it relates to Justice Loughry,” he said. “He should have every opportunity to clear his name, to be defended against these allegations, but, at this point, there’s so much substantiation around these allegations that he must step aside and allow this process to go forward.”

If Loughry does not resign, Carmichael said, he would support convening a special session to begin the impeachment process.

Justice, in a news release issued just after 9 p.m. Friday, said that while everyone is innocent until proven guilty, the allegations against Loughry are “extremely troubling,” and at the very least have cast a “very negative shadow” over the state.

“If the charges are accurate, I would urge Justice Loughry to resign and spare the court and state any further embarrassment,” Justice said. “As the impeachment process is the domain of the Legislature, I will continue to have a dialog with the leadership to determine the desire to initiate impeachment proceedings. In the event of sufficient interest, I would be open to calling a special session.”

During the 2018 legislative session, Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, pushed a bill to get a House committee to look into the appropriateness of impeaching Loughry. In a January report from the State Journal, Carmichael brushed off Pushkin’s move.

“I think it may be the single dumbest, most ridiculous political stunt that I’ve seen in my time in the Legislature,” Carmichael said at the time. “It’s just a publicity stunt. We should be so past that. I think whoever introduces [impeachment proceedings] should be ashamed.”

When asked about those comments and his pivot on the matter, Carmichael stood by the remarks, given the information available then.

“I still believe that, at the time, it was the right thing to say,” he said. “You don’t read a report on the news and call for someone’s impeachment. I hope we’re not in a society in which there’s reporting on an allegation and the next thing we do is impeach someone.”

While Loughry is suspended, he cannot hear any civil or criminal matters or perform any other judicial functions.

Loughry’s charges are not criminal charges. However, the statement of charges indicates a federal investigation of the state Supreme Court has been underway since at least December 2017. Loughry was replaced as chief justice by Margaret Workman in February.

Jennifer Bundy, Supreme Court spokeswoman, did not respond to requests for comment.

Reach Jake Zuckerman at jake.zuckerman@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4814 or follow @jake_zuckerman on Twitter.

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